Election Commission Reviews Ballot-Related Legislation
Preparations Also Made For Elkins School Election

By Dan Craft
Published March 8th 2003 in Northwest Arkansas Online
FAYETTEVILLE -- Some election-related legislation introduced in the Arkansas General Assembly will yield positive results, while other bills will hinder election efforts, Washington County election officials said Friday morning.

A bill filed by Rep. Marilyn Edwards, D-Fayetteville, modifies the filing deadlines for independent and municipal candidates, synchronizing their deadline with that of party-affiliated and statewide office candidates. Moving that deadline forward helps election officials by giving them more time to print ballots, said John Burrow, chairman of the Washington County Election Commission.

"Now, we don't have enough turnaround time," Burrow said. "It can be tough to get all those names in and the ballots printed before early voting starts."

The bill, House Bill 1985, was approved by the state House of Representatives and will now be considered by the Senate.

Election commissioners also examined two bills filed by Sen. Sue Madison, D-Fayetteville. One, Senate Bill 690, would modify how commissioners consider absentee ballots. The bill would eliminate a requirement that a ballot stub be removed from the ballot and placed in a separate envelope before the ballot is mailed, said Bucky Crouch, election commission coordinator.

"It's a simple mistake that's often made, and right now, we have to disregard those votes," Crouch said.

Commissioners had mixed feelings about Madison's other bill, SB 618. The bill would set all special elections on the second Tuesday of a month, and limit the number of special elections a city or county could call within a calendar year.

Standardizing special election dates is a good scheduling move, but limiting the number of special elections may not work, Burrow said.

"It's our job to conduct elections, and when called on, we'll do so," Burrow said. "It comes with the territory in a democracy that when you need a vote, you hold an election."

SB 618 has been referred to the State Agencies and Governmental Affairs Committee, while SB 690 is on the Senate floor.

Another bill would allow for overseas ballots to be equipped for an "instant runoff," letting military voters list their second choice rather than mailing them a second ballot in the event of a runoff. The bill will cause problems because Washington County's counting machines aren't capable of reading such a ballot, Crouch said.

The sponsor and status of that bill was not immediately available.

In other business, the commission decided to order a ballot for every voter in the Elkins School District for its April 22 election. Turnout is expected to be high, so a ballot for every voter will ensure that ballots do not run out, said commissioner Tom Lundstrum.